Five to Watch: Colts vs. Redskins

So far in training camp, all eyes have been on the injured superstars and suddenly retiring defensive tackles. On Sunday, the lights come up and the preseason games start for real. Who are the five guys to watch when the Colts play the Redskins on August 3rd? Brad Keller breaks it down here.

1. Jim SorgiAlthough everyone is going to be taking a long look at newcomers Quinn Gray and Jared Lorenzen, Sorgi has spent the past week looking over his shoulder at the two men nipping at his heels.

Even if Peyton Manning misses the first game — or more — of the regular season, Sorgi will have every opportunity and an obvious advantage over the other quarterbacks on the roster.  However, just because it's his job to lose doesn't mean that no one is going to try to win it from him ... or that it;s impossible for him to play himself out of the top back-up job.

How he responds to the adversity he has been put through in the past two weeks will tell the coaches and the fans a great deal about what they can expect when things start to count.  Will he step up, or will one of the recently signed possible replacements steal the spotlight?

2. Mike HartWhile Joseph Addai, Dominic Rhodes, Kenton Keith, and Clifton Dawson have a better chance of making the roster, Hart has drawn rave reviews from the coaching staff — particularly Tony Dungy — so far in camp.

It will be interesting to see how well his success on the practice field, with a specific emphasis on pass blocking and receiving skills, translates to an in-game situation.

Also, even though he will be facing off against second- and third-string defenders, the number of running plays called versus the number of passing plays — which would require him to be both a blocker and a receiver — is something worth watching.

If he is required to catch and pick up blitzing linebackers, that bodes well for his future.  If he is simply required to carry the ball and run the clock, then it's possible that some roster choices are already made.

Ryan Diem and Charlie Johnson in camp in 2007
AP Photo/Michael Conroy

3. Charlie JohnsonRookie Mike Pollak has been impressive thus far in camp and has a solid chance at filling the void left by the departure of Jake Scott this offseason.

Johnson was unimpressive filling in for Tony Ugoh at left tackle, but there was little-to-no drop-off when he substituted for Ryan Diem at right tackle in 2007. However, neither man has a great deal of experience at guard, so it is actually up in the air.

Johnson will probably start the game with the first team, based on his veteran status and general experience, so he needs to make those snaps count.  How will he adjust and perform against the other team's first string?

4. Ed JohnsonJohnson overcame long odds to crack into the starting lineup as an undrafted free agent last season, beating out the now (apparently) retired Quinn Pitcock and special teams ace Darrell Reid when the job opened up after Anthony McFarland went down with an injury.

This offseason has been more comfortable for Johnson, with his job secure and the ability to improve instead of fighting for his life to make the roster.

He has drawn rave reviews from Tony Dungy who mentioned that this year — defensive linemen usually see drastic improvement between their first and second seasons — is critical for him and that Johnson is progressing nicely.

The part of his game that is definitely lacking would be his pass-rushing skills and technique, which will need to take a big step up in order for him to raise his game to the next level and step out of the shadow of Raheem Brock.

Sunday's game is the first step towards that transformation.  Will he fight as hard now that he doesn't have to to make the roster?

5. Marcus HowardHoward has an excellent shot to back up Robert Mathis, but a good deal of the buzz since July 24th has surrounded undrafted free agent Curtis Johnson. NFL Expert Ed Thompson recently wrote a feature on Johnson, discussing his excellent chances of making the roster.

If Johnson does make the roster, that does not automatically exclude Howard, but it certainly makes things interesting.  Where Johnson has turned heads on the practice field, Howard needs to make an impact during the course of a game, even if it is against Washington's scrubs.

A big play is a big play and, at this point, Howard needs to take advantage of every opportunity that he can.

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